Aberdeen City Council has adopted a completely new approach enabling robust intervention in rent management through the use of the NPS Housing Payment Arrangements module.
Aberdeen City Council has over 22,000 social housing properties under management, including a variety of cottages, houses and flats, and 59 multi-storey blocks.
The council has traditionally been a leader in embracing housing IT. For example, they were one of the first authorities in the UK to host their social housing application forms online, enabling their customers to make their applications entirely on the web.
Being an early adopter has paid dividends. The council is comfortable with improving their services with cutting edge digital solutions: this has given Aberdeen City Council the confidence to further improve their income management IT solution, giving their customers greater payment flexibility and the ability to intervene at an early stage if there are rent problems.
Aberdeen City Council faced a number of challenges in rent management, in particular needing a more proactive system with payment options that suited the customers.
As a result, Aberdeen City Council was looking for a solution that:
• Proactively reduced rent arrears, caught payment problems early, and reduced phone traffic for simple rent queries.
• Increased the number of customers paying by direct debit.
Diane Leaver, Systems Manager, Communities Housing and Infrastructure at Aberdeen City Council, said: "Particularly in housing we've been keen to adopt new digital solutions. We started doing true, end-to-end online housing applications in about 2009. Customer take up was quite successful – the general public expect to complete things online now."
"Because it's all online, it means we don't have staff in the back room typing up paper based housing applications. Those staff can now engage with the client rather than just copy typing."
22,000 social housing properties
59 multi-storey blocks
To achieve their goals in income management Aberdeen City Council has used two Northgate Public Service products, Payment Arrangements and Task Manager.
The Payment Arrangements module provides a proactive method of payment monitoring – it helps not only to monitor but to understand payment behaviour and enables early intervention where payments are missed.
Aberdeen City Council is using Payment Arrangements to create a schedule of payments for each customer and, through Task Manager, create early alerts when a payment is about to go unpaid or has been missed.
Diane Leaver said: "Payment Arrangements enables us to quickly give our customers their profile – we are able to show them what they have agreed to pay and when, and we can react very quickly when they miss a payment. Ultimately it enables us to become more proactive on rent management."
"Incredibly we'd never really paid attention to whether our tenants paid their rent or not, we were simply led by them falling into arrears. Payment Arrangements affords the opportunity to do so much more and do it quicker.”
"Another major factor was we wanted to increase the number of customers paying by direct debit. We had about 6,000 people paying by direct debit, which we thought was low. Taking up Payment Arrangements enabled us to offer direct debits on any day of the month, which we couldn't do before, and that was much better from a customer point of view."
"It's clear that the earlier you catch a problem the better. As a consequence of our culture shift, we've hosted a number of site visits from Scottish and English housing providers who are looking at how we've arranged our payment systems."